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Everything You Need to Know About The Biggest Loser Controversy – Including ‘Extreme Weight Loss’ Trainer Chris Powell’s Opinion

Written on February 12, 2014 at 7:59 pm , by

Frederickson’s before and after photos (courtesy of NBC).

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, I’m sure you’re aware of all the controversy that’s been swirling around The Biggest Loser season 15 finale and its winner, Rachel Frederickson. But if you’re not clued in to all the dirty details, we’ve got you covered. Here’s what’s been happening:

After competing on the show and being monitored closely for seven-and-a-half months, Frederickson went home (unmonitored and without trainers) for the final stretch before the finale, working to get down to her lowest weight and hopefully claim the $250,000 prize and title of the Biggest Loser. She shocked viewers; the audience; trainers Bob Harper, Jillian Michaels and Dolvett Quince; and host Alison Sweeney when she strutted a 0-2 sized figure and clocked in at a startling 105 pounds. At the start of the show, Frederickson weighed in at 260 pounds. With a 5’4″ frame, let’s do the math: this girl shed 155 pounds fast, and she brought her BMI (body mass index) down to 18, which places her in the underweight category – a first in the show’s history.

Now, we know by now that BMI is not the end-all, be-all for telling whether or not a person is healthy. There are many other factors at play, like muscle mass. Had she gone too far? Despite the media storm, NBC stands behind their latest champion, and when People magazine asked Frederickson point blank whether or not she had an eating disorder, she told them, “I am very, very healthy.”

That being said, when you’re training for six hours a day and only eating 1,600 calories per day like this contestant was, the cause for concern seems warranted (however, that does not justify mean, negative comments). After all, it was widely reported that Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps chowed down a staggering 12,000 calories a day when training for the Beijing Olympics, and we all heard about how track-star-turned-bobsledder Lolo Jones consumes 9,000 daily calories to beef up for bobsledding. Even Olympic cyclists take in more than 3,300 calories, on average. Granted, Olympians aren’t trying to drop weight the way Frederickson was, but it’s the closest comparison we get when athletes are logging so many hours of exercise.

But before we all point fingers at the 24-year-old athlete (which she is, no question), let’s face the facts: The Biggest Loser is a competitive reality show, and Frederickson did exactly what she signed on to do: win a weight-loss show and bring home a life-changing amount of money. Whether she stays at the same weight or gains 20 pounds before the end of the week doesn’t matter – and with the amount of challenges she won throughout the season (4 out of 5 once they moved to singles, including the first-ever Loser sprint triathlon), we bet that played a strategic role. After all, we’ve heard time and time again how she’s always been an athlete and Loser helped her find that in herself again.  She knew that as long as she trained hard and got down low enough, she was bringing home the goods. Also, let’s not forget that her 105-pound weight isn’t set in stone – the show’s winners generally gain back a good amount of weight post-finale to settle into their natural healthy weight.

Click through to find out what Extreme Weight Loss trainer Chris Powell has to say!

Powell with wife and new Extreme Weight Loss co-host, Heidi (photo courtesy of @realchrispowell).

In the end, we checked in with another celebrity trainer who’s quite familiar with weight-loss shows. In fact, he hosts one: Extreme Weight Loss trainer Chris Powell stopped by FITNESS’ office shortly after the Loser finale, and even though he didn’t train Frederickson himself, there are a few thoughts he’s willing to share. Most importantly, the science behind it all:

“We’re talking about 3 percent of your body weight a week is what she was losing,” says Powell. “And just as far as my experience and my education has taught me, and with all the doctors that we work with, they say any time you begin to encroach upon 2 percent a week, you simply can’t lose fat that fast. And when you start to get upwards of 2 percent, that’s when the body starts to cannibalize protein, which is your muscle, and that’s also when we’re going to start to talk about damage to the endocrine system and electrolyte imbalances and all kinds of different things.”

Powell has even dealt with eating disorders on his show, and aggressively addressed it on-air with their season 3 contestant, Alyssa Stommen. Unfortunately, it’s not an uncommon occurrence for those going on such a big weight-loss journey, the trainer confesses. “It just looked as if she [Frederickson] had just found another extreme, which is also – just for the record – very common,” he says. “Overeating is an eating disorder, and so is under eating. And it’s very easy to slip from one end of the spectrum to the other…it looks like she found another extreme, and the numbers would suggest the same thing. But, I don’t know. If she found some kind of magic way to get fit in a really healthy way, fantastic; more power to her.”

Since it’s the first time this has ever happened on The Biggest Loser (and after 15 seasons, that’s impressive), we can’t help but wonder what – if anything – will change with the format of the show. We reached out to NBC to find out, but for now, they’re staying tight-lipped and have no comment. For now, we’ll cross our fingers that Frederickson really is as healthy – mentally, physically and emotionally – as she claims to be, and agree with Powell’s sentiments: “I don’t know because I wasn’t there…but I certainly hope for her sake that she is fit, and that she can find some kind of balance where she is now.”

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  • me, me, me,

    Go Rachel….I think you look fabulous

  • A fitness subcriber…love it!

    I think she was just playing the game, and was smart, she was very competitive and won the car, and the $Money! Now she can celebrate and have a big piece of Pie, I hope the show has her on next season, at some point, so we can see she is indeed a healthy Rachel.

  • Barbara Ann Harakal

    I do not understand why people are so freaked out about her weight loss. She looks great to me and if anyone has ever done the research, her 105 pound weight is on the lowest end of a healthy weight for a woman of her height. I too was once 105# at 5’4″ and I was healthy. The BMI index for a healthy woman of 5’4″ stature is 105-135. I think people are jealous of how good she looks. She will gain some of it back but so long as she really did lose it the right way, who are we to tell her she is unhealthy.

  • Angie

    I was scared to see her. She does NOT look healthy in any way. She looks ill I am sorry to say. And it is sad that this is the view that women think is beautiful now. She would look better with a few more lbs on her.

  • Kara

    I thought she looked great! She is young and healthy looking to me. I was rooting for her and am glad she won. I am not trying to be mean but I think overweight people are mostly the ones who think she looks unhealthy.
    If she is eating right and living her life then all is good. You look beautiful!

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  • Yve

    Her BMI is 18 which is NOT healthy according to NIH: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/obesity/BMI/bmicalc.htm.

  • Jizelle

    I think she looks good! Not underweight at all to me. If she’s underweight then a lot of everyday women I see walking around are underweight themselves. Besides it better to be a little underweight than it is to be overweight.

  • Maria

    I too was shocked when she walked out and am shocked that others aren’t shocked. Anne Hathaway lost a ton of weight to play her role in Les Miserables and I haven’t seen her gaining any of it back. People do become obsessive over skinny and I really do hope that Loser’s winner this season recognizes. She’s a beautiful girl but she’s so skinny now, and i hate saying it, but she looked better at 260.

  • Wong White

    I don’t see how negatively attacking a person with body image issues is healthy. I think the trainers on the show shoulds give the contestants a range to hit, if they don’t lose enough weight or lose too much weight then they are penalized. Reward people for losing weight and being healthy. The show incentivizes weight loss, and not general health habits. As far as getting through to the audience I think people at home would do much better with a “healthy goal” rather than a weight loss goal simply because no one can match working out 10+ hours a day.

  • Maria B

    she looked better at 260lbs?? How deluded are you?? She looks too skinny now, but in NO WAY did she look better when she was too fat at 260lbs!!

  • kirsten
  • Bella’s Circus

    I watch The Biggest Loser every season and feel every ounce of their struggles. I find strength in their journeys and wish every season that I could go to that ranch. I cry with them every episode into the finale, finding the common thread between us. I would have beat Rachel! When I put my mind to it and had no other distractions – was given all the resources I needed – I would have kicked Rachel’s ass! The show has never been “reality”. Fat people know that – but it gives us hope. For the contestants – it’s a chance of a lifetime and the challenges run much deeper than their ice cream bowl.

    Every fat girl wishes she could go to that ranch and they all want to be Rachel – and if you say otherwise – shut the front door – because you are a liar. Some of you will say that it sets a bad example and puts impossible expectations on us but you would trade places with her in a second. Others will say she is “too skinny” and looks “unhealthy” & blame the show for the extreme conditions. Shut the front door – it’s a contest and the Purse is a quarter of a million dollars. More importantly, the winner goes from fat to fit in less than a year! That’s a fucking dream come true for fat people. Losing 5-10 pounds in a week is far more rewarding than 1-2…I don’t care who ya are. Sure it’s hard work, but that’s what separates the men from the boys, so to speak. Victory trumps reality here. We know its temporary – we know it’s not the best way to do it, but it’s awesome nonetheless. We are all struggling to be needed, wanted and loved. We are all struggling to be accepted, respected and not rejected. Our battle scars are on our hips and thighs – surrounding our abs and our biceps. The bleeding wounds are invisible – the rejection, the abuse, the loneliness, the stress, the worthlessness – it all manifests in our addiction to food. Food is to us like booze is to an alcoholic with one difference. We cannot live without food. We cannot simply avoid the grocery store to duck the triggers of our addiction. We somehow must find the balance between what is for our nourishment and what is for our comfort. Food is our best friend and our worst enemy – our cheerleader and our put down – our love and our hate. Food is everything for some and something for all of us.

    I grew up in this struggle for one reason or another and have been battling the bulge for 30 years now. At the age of 42 (almost 43) the struggles without and within are endless and there is only one lesson that rings true for me every day: The battle is not won on the scale. The battle is won

    in my own head. The mind fuck I experience every single day astounds me and yet – even knowing that, I continue to struggle hourly. What am I afraid of? What issues do I have that prevent me from getting to my goals? It has got to be something because I know for sure that I have discipline and the will to do it. I have done it time and time again. I have lost and gained hundreds of pounds – so why? I hate when you skinny and fit people say, “Just stop eating that. I don’t understand what’s so hard about it. Just stop.” Well, F you very much. I would never have thought to just stop. That’s brilliant, asshole. And why don’t you go F yourself? Why don’t you JUST do THAT? But I digress……

    So I have started to explore the why. I am scratching the surface of 30 years of war and I can come to only one conclusion. I am afraid of you. I am afraid of all of you. The people I know and the ones I haven’t met yet. I am afraid of not living up to your expectations. I am afraid of not being good enough or smart enough or pretty enough or funny enough or sexy enough or clever enough. I am afraid you won’t like me for what’s on the outside. Afraid that you’ll never get to know who I am on the inside. Afraid that you will. Afraid that you don’t think I already know about myself what you’re already thinking about me…..Fat is my armor. It’s my shield from the hurt that accompanies the human spirit. I have been laughed at talked about cursed at stared at and had looks of disgust. And still, I am struggling – struggling to be everything I know I am capable of being for you and for her, for him and for them. Struggling to understand that the only person whose expectation is impossible to meet is my own. You struggle too. Maybe it’s not with food. Maybe you are a shopaholic or a gambler. Maybe you obsess on the computer for a good portion of the day or smoke weed to unwind. Maybe you work ALL THE TIME. Maybe you binge and purge or eat nothing at all. Maybe you don’t sleep at night and look at porn for hours. Maybe you clean incessantly until your hands bleed. Maybe you are a stalker on Facebook or you smoke or maybe you go to the bar every night. Maybe you drink a couple of bottles of wine before dinner, during dinner, after dinner. Just because I wear my addiction for the world to see, doesn’t mean I am the only one suffering.

    I’m not weak but I am wounded. I am not a quitter but I sometimes feel defeated. I am not lazy but I am tired and sometimes weary. What I am is a warrior. I am on the battlefield and I am not without fear but I have with me the knowledge of what that fear means to me – what that fear does to me, and where that fear belongs. I am a warrior.

    This. Is. War.

    So before you judge and persecute Rachel Fredricksen for her victory – remember that she too is fighting a war with herself. Her war was to break free of her food addiction and be a champion once again. And now she is. I hope she has figured out “why” and will settle at a healthy weight going on her merry way with $250,000 – and the title we all long for: The Biggest Loser.
    Bella’s Blog http://www.bellascircus.com

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  • Aydan

    I don’t think she looks unhealthy at all, but I do feel that her BMI is too low for an athlete. It can be dangerous to have too small an amount of fat on the body, and if she is an athlete, then she should weigh a bit more to compensate for the amount of muscle she has. I am excited about her massive weight loss, though I am still concerned for her.